Elevate Difference

Guide to Brooklyn: 2007

Has the ganglial network that is today's Internet annulled the need for books, especially guidebooks? Printed matter tickles my aesthetic funny bone when it contains unique, antiquey fonts or luscious photographs, but when was the last time an urbanite rifled through the Yellow Pages to choose the perfect dark hideaway to romance her lover in, the price-is-right shop for a colorful spring dress or the school to send her children to?

The Not For Tourists (NFT) Guide to Brooklyn is an expanded Yellow Pages geared toward the hip, youngish city dweller. Attractions are grouped by neighborhood, with accompanying maps. My main complaint with the book is that the reader has to flip to the back of the book for descriptions of businesses, as if referencing footnotes. Although I’m sure the editors thought this would ensure the brevity of the neighborhood sections, it’s a pesky task to have to look to the back of the book for the category of Park Slope, then the subcategory Shopping, just to find a one-liner on a store I was looking for - Bird.

The one-liners zing and miss in equal doses. This may be because NFT employs a dozen or so writers to scope out and review these spots, so the feel is a bit inconsistent. The Williamsburg bar Larry Lawrence is merely described as "Smokers." What kind of smokers? What kind of décor? Most importantly, what kind of drinks and atmosphere? Also, the word "hip" (which begs the pertinent question: hip in what way? Is it gutter punk divey, mod fashionista or stylish Williamsburg momma with papoose sling sort of hip?) is used to describe many businesses, including Supreme Trading, a bar that as of recently, especially on weekends, is more filled with Bridge and Tunnelers from other boroughs than local "hipsters" of any kind.

My second complaint about the organization of the book (this is starting to sound like a list of union grievances) is that after flipping back and finally finding the Park Slope/Prospect Heights section again, I couldn’t determine the cross streets of the soul food restaurant I was looking for on the map because the various businesses were not numbered! They were just denoted as stores, restaurants or bars. This was more than I could handle from a supposed resident guidebook. My friend and I ended up taking a recommendation from the bartender instead.

One caveat: Brooklyn is, and always has been, its own ethnic, mini-United States (more so than uber-gentrified Manhattan), and it isn’t as encapsulated as Manhattan, so it’s not as easy to describe. Some parts of Brooklyn are so far removed from Manhattan that they’re hardly recognizable as being part of New York City. Other parts, like Williamsburg or Park Slope, resemble the Lower East Side or West Village. In either case, it’s a much larger area dominated by small businesses and dozens of different immigrant communities with events and services that can be quite private or off the radar, so it may be more impenetrable.

This book would be so much more exciting if there were lengthier descriptions of neighborhood histories, what kind of signs identify a Turkish bath, how and where to bargain, contact info for active community groups, or what kind of Chinese vegetables to look for in Sunset Park, rather than just listings of businesses that may soon close (NFT itself puts a disclaimer in the front of the book, saying that it can’t guarantee that these businesses will still be open and takes no responsibility if they aren’t). The guide also covered only the Western and Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods, which was a disappointment. These are mostly the neighborhoods that residents already know. I was looking for some new information.

I think this is a better choice for someone who has just arrived in Brooklyn, or someone who doesn't have access to the Internet (the whole guide is, after all, published in PDF on their website), but at $9.95, it won't eat holes into your credit card, and even if you don't consult it frequently, you might learn a thing or two. Editor Rob Tallia has the fervent love that a New Yorker needs to survive here for decades (see his article “City Life” on the NFT website), and through his good intentions, I’m sure that future versions will improve (last year’s Brooklyn book was even skimpier), though never with the speed of Citysearch via a Sidekick, nor with the relevancy that a good local bartender could provide.

Written by: Onya Lamoureux, May 17th 2007

Hey Sara D.- Are you referring to a post on this review that wasn't approved? There have not been any comments on this review that have not been approved. To clarify on your question about our moderation guidelines, I have now posted those on the homepage. To answer your question, no, companies do not see the reviews until they are published. Then they are emailed a link to the review. Hence, why Rob – from NFT – commented in this thread. Others have done the same to both critique and to thank the review writer on other threads. I agree with you that the reviews will probably vary to the reader, but that's a part of our dedication to the writers having multiple feminist perspectives and opinions, which answers your next question - yes, we believe in both positive and critical commentary, and both the reviews and the comments reflect that. Thanks for your comments!

hey--first of all this isn't an attack, but it's pretty lame you guys didn't post my response on the review. do you give companies the option to review your posts before publishing. i doubt it. did you not show it bc it was condescending or not praising to fem review. it really seems like what you guys aren't all about. personally i dig this organization. i also write reviews in the city and will email your site when it's printed. that's not a threat either--i only find it fair and usually print out the same articles except with the response denied explaining the refuse. remember weigh your press- don't read it. i'm disappointed in several of the reviews i've read here and it's unfortunate bc there is a need for this organization. there are also many i like."Feminist Review blog believes that all opinions - positive and critical - are valuable and seeks to give voice to communities that remain on the margins"is this true?i think opinions are exactly that. you post yours and others post theirs. people read them and most likely have their own already. to use discression seems unfair to the community targeted. women can decide for themselves to agree or disagree with either posting. hopefully it will be reconsidered for the simple fact of fairness.sara d.

hey onya--just heard they were making the new nft in calligraphy...-here's to calligraphy -adding curves to masculine lettering since before brooklyn.personally- i dig the book how it is. not in the rain though...actually it usually ends up being my umbrella. if all you are looking for in books are aesthetics...it may not be a wise category to review. good luck finding your way.NYC woman

I have to say that I've had a NFT Guide to NYC in my bag for the past two years, and I use it quite frequently when I'm in need of either a subway map or a neighborhood map. I haven't used it much for what Rob describes (needing a quick drink in the rain), but I can say that I'd rather be with it then without it, especially since I lack a Sidekick, Palm Pilot, Blackberry or other expensive piece of technology to guide me in moments of confusion on the streets of New York City. I do think that the limitations that Onya speaks of are valid... although not necessarily practical (as Rob points out) for a small publisher. Okay, so I'm trying to play Devil's Advocate a bit, but my main point is that, while not perfect, for $10 you definately get your money's worth.

Dear Onya:Thanks for the shout-out (especially the last paragraph)! We hear your comments--not sure which version of the guide you have, but the 2007 edition DOES have the cross-streets for each listing next to the address itself in the front of the book. So at least we took care of that. We'd love to actually cross-reference each icon with each listing, but that would mean having to re-number all of the icons every year as the number of listings in that category changes (no thanks!). So that's why we went with the cross-streets. And yes, flipping back and forth can be a bit of a pain, but where else else can you quickly scan 20 choices for Williamsburg bars? It takes 15 seconds; good luck spending less than 25 minutes on the web trying to get a succinct set of choices. We do always try and get the blurbs a bit more descriptive, but at the same time, i kind of like the mystery that surrounds some of them--kind of forcing you to go and actually check it out. While I can't personally vouch for every bar, restaurant, or shopping selection, the stuff that's IN the book is almost always spot-on, in my experience (and I have a lot of experience, in every NFT borough and city!). I hate to say it, but if you're standing on the corner of N 9th St and Driggs in the rain and are hungry, the book will be MUCH faster than a Sidekick looking at CitySearch or Yelp or Chowhound or Menupages or Foodler or Urban Spoon or Eater or or or. The restaurant lists by 'nabe are pretty damned good--is it going to have the latest/hippest place? Probably not. But you'll have a dozen or two dozen or even three dozen NFT-approved choices in 30 seconds (pages 136-137 for Williamsburg) of the 2007 edition. And we're working on trying to get the web to be just as efficient (you can search by 'nabe online now, you know), but the book (ironically) is faster. than. any. damned. website. really.We've always talked about doing supplemental guides that have more info; perhaps even different small guides for each neighborhood, for instance. Our website is continuing to expand its content and hopefully soon we'll have even more web-only content than we do now (though more is being put up every day!). But your other suggestions are in the end simply impractical for our format; you can't have too many 200-word descriptions in a 150-page book that already has 100 maps and 3000 listings. The book is meant to be used exactly as described--I'm standing on the corner, in the rain, on the corner of X and Y, and I need a drink NOW!For that, I have to say it's kind of perfect. But thanks for the comments--be well!cheers,Rob TalliaManaging EditorNot For Touristsrob@notfortourists.com